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4th December, 2017

Learning to birth, mastering the social practice of birth

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Event Details

4th December, 2017
12:45 - 14:00
Myddelton Street Building
City, University of London
1 Myddelton Street

Women’s experiential learning in the birthroom and why it matters

The Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research welcomes Jo Dagustun from the School of Geography, University of Leeds to the School of Health Sciences, City, University of London. Jo’s birth-related research is undertaken first-and-foremost with the experiences and contributions of birthing women at its heart. Drawing inspiration from Bourdieu, Jo works with a conceptualisation of birthing women as skilful and knowledgeable agents. Addressing key questions about how and where women come to learn about birth, about physiological birth and about their role in birth, Jo’s PhD research focuses on women’s experiential learning about birth ‘in the birthroom’.

The study contributes to knowledge about spaces of birth and how these represent key sites of learning. It also talks more broadly to how women understand and manage the embodied nature/culture interface represented by personal experience of the social practice of birth.

The presentation will explore Jo’s findings about the diversity of women’s experiential learning.  Jo will present the case that rather than representing a space in which women might learn to protect the physiological process of birth, successive experiences of birth seem to represent a space in which many women learn to shut down that possibility. They do this by prioritising defensive action to protect themselves against emotional and physical harm, with some women learning that a physiological approach to birth is unnecessary, abnormal and dangerous. Whilst there is some evidence that some women learn to birth physiologically over their childbearing careers by drawing on their experiential knowledge, Jo’s main finding is that being skilful and knowledgeable as a birthing woman frequently works in the opposite direction.


Jo’s work background is in public policy, at national/international level, with an academic background in geography and business administration.

Jo was awarded an ESRC 1+3 studentship in 2007 to pursue an interest in international migration. During her Masters year, Jo wrote a dissertation about why so few women in the UK give birth at home. After this brief but intense introduction to birth research, and noticing the relative lack of interest in the topic from fellow geographers, Jo decided to retain a birth-focus for her doctoral studies, and successfully completed her PhD this year, interrupted only by the birth of her fourth child.

Jo lives in Greater Manchester, and works in a voluntary capacity with the Greater Manchester and East Cheshire (GMEC) Maternity Voices Partnerships and with the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS).

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